Warning: Details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
A Calgary Police Service officer who shot and killed 29-year-old Stacey Perry on Christmas Day in 2018 is not criminally liable, according to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).
At around 11:58 p.m. on Dec. 24, two CPS officers noticed a vehicle driving slowly but erratically on westbound Blackfoot Trail S.E. from Deerfoot Trail S.E.
The erratic driving led officers to believe that Perry, the driver, may be impaired, and they attempted to stop the vehicle, according to an ASIRT report published on Friday. The vehicle did not stop and accelerated away, and the officers pursued the vehicle with their supervisor but did not follow her further because of the risks.
At around 12:03 a.m., two other CPS officers noticed the same vehicle driving slowly but erratically on 9 Avenue S.E. at 13 Street S.E. Police said they also tried to stop the vehicle but the woman did not stop.
ASIRT said the officers followed the vehicle “from a distance” along with a police helicopter, but had to stop at around 12:39 a.m. when the helicopter was required for another call.
Police then received a 911 call about the same vehicle at around 2:19 a.m., which was now in the area of Falconridge Boulevard N.E. and 64 Avenue N.E. The callers reported erratic driving and thought Perry was drunk, ASIRT said in the report. Police followed the vehicle again in response, and a police helicopter was dispatched at around 2:35 a.m.
Shortly after at 2:41 a.m., the acting staff sergeant in command of the operation at the time authorized the use of a low-speed box-in maneuver to stop the vehicle. A low-speed box-in maneuver involves police surrounding a vehicle and forcing it to stop by physically restricting its movement.
ASIRT said officers began the maneuver right after the acting staff sergeant gave the authorization. They surrounded the woman’s vehicle and successfully brought it to a stop, with police vehicles at the front, rear and passenger’s side of the vehicle. However, the police vehicle on the driver’s side left a gap, which later provided an opportunity for Perry to move her vehicle.
Three officers then exited their vehicles, including the officer who later shot Perry (identified as the “subject officer” in the ASIRT report). ASIRT said the subject officer, who was on the driver’s side of Perry’s vehicle, told her to turn off the vehicle and immediately smashed the window with his baton. He then tried to remove her physically from the vehicle.
Police said Perry then tried to free her vehicle from the box by pressing on the gas pedal aggressively, shifting to the left and moving into the gap on the driver’s side of her vehicle. This led to an officer being pinned between a police vehicle door and Perry’s car, who was unable to escape the pinch because her feet were lifted off the ground while trapped.
ASIRT said the subject officer drew his gun and fired at Perry three times from close range. All three shots hit her in the head and she was killed immediately, the report read.
The entire incident, from Perry’s vehicle stopping to the three shots being fired, lasted approximately 40 seconds according to ASIRT.
An autopsy determined Perry died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head. A toxicology report showed Perry had cocaine and prescribed benzodiazepine, a tranquillizer, in her system.
Subject officer found not criminally liable
According to the ASIRT report, the subject officer is not criminally liable.
ASIRT said police officers are permitted to use as much force as is necessary for the execution of their duties and for their defence under section 25 of the Criminal Code. The subject officer’s shots toward Perry were made in response to risks posed towards the trapped officer in the incident, which ASIRT said protected the subject officer under the Criminal Code.
The report also said the shooting did not remove the risk to the trapped officer because Perry’s foot remained on the gas pedal after she was shot.
“She remained at the same risk of serious injury or death as she did prior to the shots. This does not mean that the actions of the subject officers were pointless, however. To review his actions using the outcomes, which he could not know at the time, is unreasonable,” the report read.
But ASIRT also found there were serious breaches of CPS’ policies regarding box-in maneuvers and vehicle intervention techniques, which require everyone involved in the maneuver to be trained or certified in the techniques.
Both the subject officer and the trapped officer made tactical errors in the execution of the box-in maneuver that left them vulnerable, ASIRT said.
The report said while the officers involved were lawfully entitled to pursue Perry, criminal flights are “inherently dangerous situations” for everyone involved. Only one of the officers involved was trained in the technique and the acting staff sergeant at the time should have known the policy, the report said.
The trapped officer could have died or contracted serious injuries as a result of their errors, ASIRT said.
It is also unclear if the specific maneuver used in this incident was permitted under CPS policy and other options could have been used, ASIRT said.
In an emailed statement to Global News, a CPS spokesperson said the 2018 incident was “extremely dynamic” and unfolded rapidly, which had a significant impact to the police service.
The spokesperson said CPS introduced new policies regarding vehicle intervention measures, including criteria for use, authorization and training for patrol officers.
“This was not an outcome we would ever hope for… In the past several years, our service has made significant changes in how we respond to incidents involving moving vehicles,” the email read.
“Since the rollout of the updated policy and training, these tactics have been successful at stopping the motion of moving vehicles while keeping our officers and the public safe. This work remains ongoing and we are currently exploring the use of additional tools and equipment to aide in these situations.”